Cold weather, road conditions, and distracted driving all can lead to accidents, experts say.
For many Newfoundland motorcycle riders, finding that perfect, sunny day in the fall is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As the temperature gets colder, riding becomes more of a risk.
Darrin Dunphy is the supervising chief instructor for Safety NL, a position he has been in for 21 years. He says motorcyclists are more prone to the changing road and weather conditions than any other driver.
“Our tires are built of a compound that is not equal to a car,” Dunphy said. “We always have to be cognizant of what we’re driving on, and when we’re driving on it. If the traction factor changes, the possibilities for us are catastrophic.”
Dunphy describes the contact patch of a motorcycle tire to the backside of a knuckle. This amount of traction creates seasonal problems for riders. The cooler the temperature, the less traction a bike will get from the pavement.
“Typically, this year our temps are getting lower. Our tires are not as hot, our pavement is not as hot, so we have traction concerns,” Dunphy said. “We need to change our driving habits to not be so aggressive in turning, braking, and acceleration.”
According to Dunphy, adjusting to these hard conditions means being a more cautious driver and leaving the reckless behaviour at home.
“The roads in Newfoundland are brutal, brutal,”
“A true motorcyclist will recognize this and understand the fact that our tires are different and drive to the conditions of the day,” said Dunphy.
Neil Myrick has been a biker for five decades. He considers himself lucky to have never been in any kind of serious accident.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Myrick said with a laugh. “I’ve done stupid things, gone too fast, and couldn’t make a turn, but (the) lucky thing is I didn’t kill myself.”
Myrick gets the most he can out of the warm months, riding from April until Halloween year after year. He, like Dunphy, also has concerns about riding during this time of year.
“It loses its fun when you have to dress up so much to get on the bike because it’s cold,” said Myrick.
“The roads in Newfoundland are brutal, brutal,” he said, enunciating every letter. “It’s atrocious, and every year they get worse.”
“It’s the biggest fear of any motorcycle driver, not what I know or do, but what is that dummy there at the stop sign going to do.”
Despite complaining about road conditions and cold weather, there is still one thing both Myrick and Dunphy agree is the most dangerous part of riding a motorcycle – distracted driving.
According to Think Insure 2019 statistics, 94 per cent of teen drivers know the dangers of texting and driving, but 35 per cent of those admitted to still doing it. In another study by the National Highway Safety Administration in 2015, 10 per cent of fatal crashes, 18 per cent of injury crashes, and 16 per cent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were the result of distracted driving.
These reasons made Myrick consider not even buying a new bike nine years ago.
“I was contemplating not buying one and the very first reason I thought of is kids on their cell phones,” Myrick said in a sombre tone. “It’s the biggest fear of any motorcycle driver, not what I know or do, but what is that dummy there at the stop sign going to do.”
Drivers are becoming more of a danger to motorcyclists with each passing day, says Dunphy.
“The consequences for you as the car driver, minimal, but for me on a motorcycle they can be life-changing, they can be life-ending,” said Dunphy.